Liga MX Power Rankings: America, Chivas take top early Clausura spots
MEXICO CITY -- Let's try something new.
Well, it's not entirely new. Inspired by (but definitely not copied from) ESPN's fantastic treatment of the NFL Power Rankings -- in which a different topic is explored each week -- the improved Liga MX Power Rankings will give great nuggets of content along the way. Here's how it works: a different topic or question is chosen each week and then spread out among the teams, giving you an added twist.
The rankings, however, remain simple. The number one ranked team is the best; the eighteenth team on the list is, well, the worst. This week, we're focusing on what the key offseason move was for each team. Was it a signing? Was it a departure? New coach? Has it not yet happened? Here are the Liga MX Power Rankings for Week 2 of the Clausura 2019:
1. CLUB AMERICA (Week 2 result: 2-1 W at Atlas)
Key offseason move: Right now, it's Diego Lainez leaving for Real Betis. The vast majority of the soccer community in Mexico is happy for the 18-year-old moving on to greener pastures, but the reality is Lainez was set to take on a bigger role for the defending champions this season. However, that could very well change in the coming days, provided the team signs a high-quality striker to spearhead a group that seriously lacked finishing up front. Las Aguilas scored 33 goals in the Apertura 2018, but their leading goal scorer in the regular season was Oribe Peralta, with just five.
2. CHIVAS (Week 2 result: 1-0 W at Cruz Azul)
Key offseason move: Sure, many Guadalajara fans were upset with Angel Zaldivar's loan to Monterrey, but Alexis Vega has proven to be a fantastic fit up front with Alan Pulido. Through the first two games of the season, Vega has done much of the dirty work Pulido was accustomed to doing in the past, freeing the former UANL striker up to finish plays, not set them up. In the Apertura 2018, teams would often pressure Chivas in the middle of the field given their lack of a deep threat -- this time around, opponents can't do that lest they have people to deal with Vega's speed and craftiness, as well as Pulido's finishing.
3. UANL TIGRES (Week 2 result: 3-0 W at Tijuana)
Key offseason move: Recalling Luis Quinones on loan. In his first spell with Tigres, Quinones was stuck behind a logjam of attackers, amassing just 749 minutes combined in the Apertura 2016 and Clausura 2017. Loans to Lobos BUAP and Toluca saw the Colombian blossom into an effective scorer with a knack for creating chances for others. This was especially apparent last Friday night at the Estadio Caliente, when Quinones was easily the most dangerous part of Tuca Ferretti's ultra-offensive 4-2-4 formation in their 3-0 dismantling of Xolos. Ferretti instructed his four attackers to rotate in position, capitalizing Quinones' speed by having him attack at times from the wing, creating space for others to close in on goal.
4. MONTERREY (Week 2 result: 2-2 D vs. Leon)
Key offseason move: 26-year-old Argentine Maxi Meza was on the radar for several European teams this winter, but Rayados' offer was far above anyone else's, landing the talented playmaker in Monterrey for the Clausura 2019. Meza was brought on for his debut last weekend, tallying 20 minutes in the draw against Leon, easing into his new club with just four completed passes and three successful dribbles.
5. TOLUCA (Week 2 result: 2-0 W vs. Puebla)
Key offseason move: The departures of Rubens Sambueza and Alexis Vega. So far, so good for Hernan Cristante and his Diablos Rojos. Two games, two wins without the offensive solutions that Sambueza and Vega provided in seasons past. To compensate, Toluca still celebrates the arrival of Emmanuel Gigliotti, as El Puma is a big, effective striker with a penchant for scoring in bunches. He's yet to debut, but without the pressure of coming into a losing situation, he can ease into his new club.
6. LOBOS BUAP (Week 2 result: 1-0 W at Veracruz)
Key offseason move: Keeping Leo Ramos. Emerging as a goal scorer last season, Ramos was courted by several clubs over the winter break. It might have been good business for Lobos to part with the Argentine, considering the low risk of relegation given how bad Veracruz has been. But, the Puebla side kept Ramos, and he's kept up his pace, with two scores thus far and providing the only goal last Friday -- against the Tiburones.
7. SANTOS LAGUNA (Week 2 result: 1-0 W vs. Morelia)
Key offseason move: Keeping Julio Furch. Similarly, the Torreon side had big offers for Furch, who exploded as one of Liga MX's best scorers following the departure of Djaniny last summer. Sources tell ESPN FC the team asked for eight figures in exchange for the former Veracruz target man, which helped keep him put. Buoyed by a strong midfield that can create chances, Furch rewarded his team's faith last weekend by providing the win against Morelia -- Santos' first of the season.
8. PACHUCA (Week 2 result: 3-0 W vs. Queretaro)
Key offseason move: At his best, Edwin Cardona is a silky playmaker who can score and change games by forcing plenty of attention from his defenders. At his worst, well, there's a reason why Boca Juniors didn't exercise his reported $6 million transfer fee at the end of his loan in 2018. Cardona is the representation of "mercurial" -- given he seems to be a player who only plays well when the mood strikes him. Against Queretaro, Cardona showed the good and the bad -- creating two big chances, and missing a sitter.
9. ATLAS (Week 2 result: 2-1 L vs. America)
Key offseason move: Argentine manager Angel Guillermo Hoyos came to Liga MX with a reputation for discovering and molding future stars (in his time at Barcelona B, he's credited with helping Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta reach the first team). While Atlas could benefit greatly from someone who can help them reclaim their nickname of La Academia, winning now is also a big priority. To do this, team president Rafa Marquez has buoyed Hoyos' side with key signings, like midfielder Osvaldo Martinez. After two games, Atlas' fast-paced offensive style has yielded mixed results, but the future remains promising.
10. NECAXA (Week 2 result: 2-1 W vs. Pumas UNAM)
Key offseason move: The return of Fernando Meza. A solid defender who had previously played for Necaxa in 2016-17, the former Argentina U-20 player was tasked with bringing order and stability to a team that was often overmatched by opponents in the Apertura. As is the case with many signings brought in over a short winter window, Meza will ease into his role as the season moves on.
11. CRUZ AZUL (Week 2 result: 1-0 L vs. Chivas)
Key offseason move: As hard as it was to see Ivan Marcone leave (and worse still, with a reduced price tag thanks to Boca Juniors' constant pressure) for Cruz Azul fans, much of the season's success hinges on whether new signing Stephen Eustaquio can adequately replace the talented central midfielder. Last weekend, Marcone's balance in the middle of the field was sorely missed -- and fans are already starting to panic.
12. LEON (Week 2 result: 2-2 D at Monterrey)
Key offseason move: One of Liga MX's all-time great playmakers is 35 years old and rightfully entering the final phase of his career. How much is left in Rubens Sambueza's tank? When America let him leave for Toluca a few seasons ago, the message was that Sambueza was washed up. That was certainly disproven. Leon hopes there's still a bit more magic left.
13. PUMAS UNAM (Week 2 result: 2-1 L at Necaxa)
Key offseason move: Retaining David Patino. On the surface, it seemed frivolous to send the manager packing after getting them into the Apertura semifinals. But Patino's teams are incredibly inconsistent and streaky. Last season, he went on a six-match unbeaten run, and then won just one of their last five. This season, Pumas has scored just one goal in three games between the Liga and Copa, and still searching for their first win.
14. PUEBLA (Week 2 result: 2-0 L at Toluca)
Key offseason move: Talented attacking midfielder Yohandry Orozco's career arc is wonderfully strange. Once pegged to be Venezuela's Ronaldinho, he's more or less become his country's version of Freddy Adu. Six years ago, he was in the Bundesliga. Three years ago, he was playing for the New York Cosmos. However, there's no denying he has talent -- and at 27, Orozco could be a low-floor, high-ceiling risk for Puebla.
15. MORELIA (Week 2 result: 1-0 L at Santos)
Key offseason move: Failing to sign a striker. It was understandable for Morelia's attack to drop off once Raul Ruidiaz parted for MLS. Fellow Peruvian Ray Sandoval has largely been unable to fill Ruidiaz's void, and this season, Morelia once again failed to address the matter, going with Sandoval, Paraguay's Sebastian Ferreira and Miguel Sansores to take care of the scoring. It's not looking so good after two games.
16. VERACRUZ (Week 2 result: 1-0 L vs Lobos BUAP)
Key offseason move: Signing Colin Kazim-Richards. Look, we're talking about a team that's going to playing in the Ascenso next summer, barring a buyout of whatever franchise takes its place in a few months. But at least Veracruz kept Kazim-Richards in Liga MX, the globetrotting forward who continues racking up stops in his playing career, emulating former Liga MX star Sebastian Abreu in the process.
17. QUERETARO (Week 2 result: 3-0 L at Pachuca)
Key offseason move: Dismantling the roster. Everything okay, guys? Remember, this is the team that promised to consistently make a splash in Liga MX after signing Ronaldinho a few years ago. They've not really followed through on threats to sign guys like Diego Forlan and Fernando Torres, but last season they made the playoffs with a fun, young group spearheaded by manager Rafa Puente. This season, the cupboard is bare, following the sales of goalkeeper Tiago Volpi and defender Hiram Mier, among others. The effects are showing quickly.
18. CLUB TIJUANA (Week 2 result: 3-0 L vs. Tigres)
Key offseason move: Hiring manager Oscar Pareja from FC Dallas. If you live in Southern California or the northwest corner of Mexico and love soccer, chances are you've gone to a game at the perpetually-in-development Estadio Caliente. Even for fans of Club Tijuana, it's been hard to track who's on the pitch for the team. Over the past few years, they've turned into the very definition of sellers. If a player blossoms for them, expect him to be gone in a few months. Pareja, a talented manager with a sterling track record in MLS, is now tasked with stopping the bleeding caused by the roster turnover -- and simultaneously developing new, young talent. Good luck.